Though it suffers at times from more information than insights, this is a timely study of a country still much in the news.




A comprehensive history of Ethiopia, from a diplomat and former staffer at the National Security Council, that is particularly instructive in covering the last 20 years.

Beginning with a brief prehistoric overview, Henze goes on to describe the rise of Ethiopia: an ancient civilization, the source of coffee, and one of the most developed and long-lasting empires in Africa. The Aksumite Empire that evolved on the lush Ethiopian highlands was known to the Greeks and the Romans, and its legendary Queen Sheba traveled to Israel to meet with King Solomon (a meeting that produced the first king of the Solomonic dynasty that ended only with the death of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974). A Persian prophet writing in the third century A.D.described Ethiopia as one of the great kingdoms of the age, and later scholars believed it to be the mysterious Christian empire ruled by Prester John. Henze details the turbulent years that followed the decline of Aksum, the devout adherence to Orthodox Christianity, the failed efforts of Portuguese adventurers to gain a foothold, and the great battle of Adwa in 1898. There the Emperor Menelik (who had begun modernizing what was and still is in some areas a medieval country) decisively defeated an Italian army bent on securing Ethiopia as a colony. Henze offers a persuasive and nuanced portrait of Haile Selassie, who did much to move Ethiopia forward (particularly in the 1960s, which Henze regards as a golden era for Ethiopia). But by 1974 Selassie was old, the succession not clear, and, unable to deal with a fractious country, Selassie was forcibly removed by the brutal and bloodthirsty warlord Mengistu Haile Mariam. His rule led to Ethiopia becoming a war-torn pawn in the Cold War, subject to the worst excesses of Marxism—forced collectivization, untold deaths, and a devastated economy.

Though it suffers at times from more information than insights, this is a timely study of a country still much in the news.

Pub Date: July 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-22719-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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